The Saints will travel to New York to face the Giants on Sunday it what will pin the defending world champions against the 2009 champs. This was supposed to be an amazing late season matchup on paper when the season started, but instead the Saints are 5-7 and the Giants are 7-5, both clinging to playoff hopes. The Saints will likely have to win out, while the Giants can't really afford to lose more than one. Here are the five things I'm looking for coming into this game:
1. Does Drew Brees respond from the worst performance of his career in a positive way?
Brees has had back to back horrible performances, so bad in fact he's almost solely responsible for the losses. Not exactly what the front office had in mind when they committed $100 million to him. I'm very curious to see how he plays in this game. Does the slump continue, sending him to unfathomable depths, or does he respond and lead the Saints to an impressive victory?
2. Can the Saints defense continue to improve?
While still on pace to be the worst defense in history, there is no question the Saints are playing better defense the last two weeks. Perfectly timed, mind you, with Brees playing the worst football of his career. It would be nice to synch up even a pedestrian Brees with the kind of defense they've played lately. But more than anything, I know this defense is going to give up some plays and make mistakes. As long as they keep improving, which they have, it'll give me hope for next year.
3. Can the Saints prevent Victor Cruz from getting behind them?
Cruz' speed is as top end as it gets. He is, without question, the most dangerous component of the Giants' offense. Going to sleep on him for even one play will result in a guaranteed big play touchdown. Can the Saints slow him down, and more importantly, can they give him out of the end zone with a big play reception?
4. Can the Saints play 4 quarters of balanced football?
The last two weeks the 49ers and Falcons both put Brees under a tremendous amount of pressure because of poor blocking on the edges and one dimensional play calling. The Saints can't afford to get one dimensional because rushing the passer is what the Giants' defense does best. They are not a great run stopping team, so the Saints can run the ball if they commit to it. Committing to the run will keep the Giants more honest and will open up play action. The Saints can't afford ot throw in obvious passing sets so often like they have the past two weeks against this team. It will take play calling similar to the first half of the 49ers game for any chance at success. I'd like to see the Saints committed to running the ball for four quarters.
5. Will the Saints contain Justin Tuck/Osi Umenyiora/Jason Pierre-Paul?
The Giants have a scary pass rush, and the three players above are the main reason for it. Jermon Bushrod has only been average this year, and Zach Strief was nowhere near healthy enough to be playing last week. To me this is the clear matchup disadvantage for the Saints: Giants edge rush vs. Saints edge blocking. Can they hold up and give Brees time?